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Felix Mottl (Composer, Arranger)

Born: August 24, 1856 - Unter-Sankt-Veit, near Vienna, Austria
Died: July 2, 1911 - Munich, Bavaria, Germany

Felix Mottl [Felix Josef von Mottl, Felix Josef Mottl] was a celebrated and highly gifted conductor and composer, .regarded as one of the most brilliant conductors of his day.

As a boy Felix Mottl possessed a fine soprano voice, and obtained admission to the Löwenburgische Convict, the preparatory school of the Imperial Court Chapel. Later on he entered the Vienna Conservatorium, where Josef Hellmesberger soon recognised the eminent gifts of young Mottl, who in due course obtained all the prizes the college could award. The Academical Richard Wagner Verein of Vienna elected him to the post of conductor of the society's concerts, and it was there that his eminent ability as a chef d'orchestre attracted general notice.

Felix Mottl became known as a gifted conductor of Wagner's music In 1876 assisted as stage conductor Hans Richter in the preparations for the first complete Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen at Bayreuth. Mottl became one of the most active members of the so-called Nibelungen-kanzlei. Upon the recommendation of Dessoff he obtained in 1881 the post of conductor at the Grand Ducal Opera House at Karlsruhe, which post he held until 1903. Mottl's energetic activity raised the performances at this opera-house to a place amongst the finest to be heard in Germany. A sworn enemy of all routine work, he produced at Karlsruhe many important stage works of modem times, including the complete cycle of operas by Hector Berlioz, all the musical dramas of Richard Wagner, and Emmanuel Chabrier, whose operas he championed; Mottl also orchestrated Chabrier's Bourrée fantasque and Trois valses romantiques. Mottl also obtained brilliant successes as a conductor of concerts; he was director of the Philharmonic Society of Karlsruhe until 1892, and was in 1886 appointed by the Bayreuth authorities to conduct the festival performances of Tristan und Isolde, a task which he accomplished to perfection. He conducted a Wagner Concert at the Queen's Hall on April 17, 1894, and appeared often in London subsequently, at many series of similar concerts. In June 1898 he conducted the Nibelungen trilogy at Covent Garden. In 1904 he was made a director of the Berlin Royal Academy of Music (Akademie der Künste in Berlin). He went to New York to conduct the performance of Parsifal given at the Metropolitan Opera there in 1903-1904, and in 1907 became director of the opera in Munich. In 1907 he gave the first complete performance of J.S. Bach's Matthäus-Passion (BWV 244) in Karlsruhe (the first complete since the death of Bach).

Felix Mottl had a successful career at the Vienna Conservatorium. Among his pupils were Ernest van Dyck and Wilhelm Petersen. In June 1907 Mottl cut some player piano rolls with Welte-Mignon, including his own piano transcription of the Prelude, the Love Duet and Brangäne's Warning from Tristan. He died in a Munich hospital on July 2, 1911, after suffering a heart attack on June 21, while conducting his 100th performance of Tristan in Munich.

Felix Mottl composed three operas, Agnes Benauer (successfully produced at Weimar in 1880), Ramin and Fürst und Sanger, a Festspiel, Eberstein (produced at Karlsruhe in 1881), a string quartet, a song-cycle Pan im Busch, besides a considerable number of songs for one voice and pianoforte accompaniment. However, he is best remembered today for his arrangements. He edited various works of Berlioz, and the Barbier von Bagdad of Peter Cornelius; he orchestrated Franz Liszt's pianoforte solo, St. Francis of Assisi preaching to the birds, Wagner's Five Songs; prepared orchestral arrangements of works of J.S. Bach, Lully, Rameau, Mozart, Gluck, and other classics; and made piano reductions of Wagner's operas. His orchestration of Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder is still the most commonly performed version.

Source: Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1952 Edition; Author: Carl Armbruster); Wikipedia Website (incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th Edition, a publication now in the public domain); Bits & pieces from other sources
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (October 2009)

Felix Mottl: Short Biography | Orchestral Arrangements: Works | Recordings

Links to other Sites

Felix Mottl (Wikipedia)
Felix Josef, Mottl (Jewish Virual Library)

Felix Mottl (Lexikon FreeNet) [German]


Frithjof Haas: Der Magier am Dirigentenpult. Felix Mottl (Karlsruhe: Hoepfner-Bibliothek. Info Verlag, 2006)

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